Drag queen brunch, a tattoo parlor, stylish eateries, and a catamaran net at the back of the ship? You have our attention, Sir Branson.
Cruising can be a polarizing topic among travelers. There are hardcore devotees and the adamantly opposed. But leave it to the forthcoming Virgin Voyages—part of the Richard Branson-founded Virgin Group—to completely shake up the way ocean cruising is done to such a degree that even the most cruise-averse might find themselves at least somewhat intrigued.
When the 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady launches in 2020, it will be the first of Virgin Voyages’s three planned cruise ships, and among its features will be a tattoo parlor, for those that want to get inked at sea in true sailor fashion, and a lineup of dining venues that put a new spin on traditional cruise ship cuisine. Bookings for these 2020 departures are open as of February 14, 2019.
The company announced the Scarlet Lady’s culinary program last fall, and some of the highlights include Razzle Dazzle, a colorful red-and-white-striped diner with “naughty” and “nice” menus (think plant-based vegan dishes versus boozy smoothies) and brunch served to the backdrop of drag performances (one of the specialty drinks will be a CBD-infused cocktail); The Test Kitchen, a laboratory/eatery that will host mixology classes and coffee workshops; and Wake, a glam Roman and Williams–designed steak and seafood restaurant, complete with a raw bar and a table-side cocktail cart.
“There will be no stuffy formalities, boring buffets and no main dining rooms,” Branson said in a statement. There will also be no extra charges for the ship’s specialty restaurants, no assigned seating, and no assigned dining times. But at least one venue will have an upselling option—there will be an additional fee for bottomless drag-inspired cocktails at Razzle Dazzle's drag brunch.
In addition to the above venues, the ship will also house a Korean barbecue restaurant, Geonbae, where Korean drinking games will be encouraged. Pink Agave, inspired by Mexico City street food, will be a shared-plate experience served to the soundtrack of DJ beats. And a food hall–style destination named The Galley will offer a bakery and pastry shop, a burger joint, bento boxes, and a noodle bar, among other options.
Virgin Voyages partnered with AvroKO Hospitality Group, Michelin-starred chef Brad Farmerie, and Brand Bureau to design and develop the Scarlet Lady’s food and beverage experiences.
While indulging will clearly be encouraged, wellness will also be a big focus on the ship, a shameless nod to a detox and retox style of vacationing. There will be a spa on board, as well as an athletic club with bootcamp and boxing classes, a full basketball court, and a cold-pressed juice bar. Hangovers might be best nursed by lounging on the catamaran net that will be at the back of the ship.
Virgin Voyages will be an adults-only cruise line (another potential selling point for the cruise-allergic). The vessel will sail to the Caribbean from Miami for the 2020 season, and some sailings will include Havana, Cuba. Bookings are open now, but you can also enter to win a four-night cruise to Havana in July 2020 to celebrate Richard Branson's birthday with him on board the Scarlet Lady.
This article originally appeared online on November 8, 2018; it was updated in February 2019 to include current information.